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Mischevious Alex has posted back-to-back stakes wins in impressive fashion and will now try to earn qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby as part of a competitive 11-horse field in Saturday's Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The 68th running of the Gotham will offer 50-20-10-5 qualifying points to the top-four finishers towards the Grade 1 "Run for the Roses" on May 2 at Churchill Downs. Anchoring a four-stakes card at the Big A, Gotham Day will be bolstered by the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool for 4-years-old and up, the $250,000 Busher for sophomore fillies offering the same 50-20-10-5 point structure for the Kentucky Oaks, and the $125,000 Stymie for 4-year-olds and up.
Race 10 at Aqueduct on Saturday, March 07 - Post 5:42 PM
|1||Celtic Striker||12-1||Romero Maragh
|Uriah St. Lewis|
|3||War Stopper||8-1||Jorge Vargas, Jr.
|4||Attachment Rate||12-1||Luis Saez
|5||Necker Island||8-1||Manuel Franco
|6||Mischevious Alex||5-2||Kendrick Carmouche
|8||Montauk Traffic||7-2||Jose Lezcano
|9||Flap Jack||15-1||Declan Carroll
|11||First Deputy||10-1||Dylan Davis
Mischevious Alex enters the one-turn mile with momentum as the field's only graded stakes winner courtesy of his seven-length score in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Swale on February 1 at Gulfstream Park. The John Servis trainee is 3-1-1 in six career starts, including a third-place finish under jockey Trevor McCarthy in his only previous start at one mile in the Sapling, a two-turn event, on September 1 at Monmouth Park.
The Into Mischief colt tried turf for the only time in his career, running seventh in the Laurel Futurity on September 21. Servis moved him back to the main track and added blinkers, resulting in a 9 ¾-length win in the Parx Juvenile on November 5 before his sophomore debut in the Swale, which earned him a personal-best 93 Beyer Speed Figure.
"If you look at his Sapling, he looks like a horse that maybe doesn't want to go that far, but Trevor [McCarthy] was adamant after the race that he should have won but the horse got to the front and started waiting on horses and pulled himself up," Servis said. "I think the blinkers have solved that."
Servis said a good Gotham performance could mean a return engagement at the Big A for the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on April 4 that will offer 100-40-20-10 Derby points.
"If he runs good in the Gotham, we'll have to try him two turns again to see how he handles it," Servis said. "I think the Wood would be the most logical spot, but nothing is etched in stone. We have to get by Saturday first."
Servis is no stranger to the Triple Crown circuit, having won the first two legs when Smarty Jones captured the Derby and Preakness in 2004 before finishing second, one length back to Birdstone, in the Belmont Stakes in his bid for history.
"They're not a lot alike other than neither of them is very big," Servis said. "Smarty was not a big horse and Alex isn't a big horse. There's not a lot of similarities other than both of them being pretty talented."
Mischevious Alex, purchased for $140,000 at the 2019 Ocala Breeders' Sale, will pick up jockey Kendrick Carmouche's services for the first time, drawing post 6.
"He's a good horse and has a great mind on him and will do what you want him to do," Servis said. I'll reiterate that to Kendrick and let him know he's pretty push button and to ride him accordingly."
Southern Equine Stable's Sixto was an impressive debut winner on January 30 in a six-furlong sprint at Aqueduct, earning an 81 Beyer for his 1 ¾-length score against a five-horse field. Trained by Eric Guillot, Sixto has breezed three times at the Belmont Park training track since his win, including a three-furlong blowout in 37.12 seconds on Monday.
"He's doing great," Guillot said. "His last time to the track we just gave him an easy work from the gate. It was a deep track and he finished up strong. Stepping up into the Gotham against better horses, we knew he had to be sharper so we just gave him that reminder to focus on breaking good and it worked out.
"He's really a push-button horse," he added. "He's a late foal and I think once he develops more, he'll be a nice two-turn horse but for now, the one-turn mile should suit him fine."
The Curlin colt, who was a $250,000 purchase at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Santa Anita 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, will see Eric Cancel pick up the mount from post 7.
Trainer Linda Rice will saddle a pair of contenders in last-out stakes-winner Montauk Traffic and First Deputy.
Montauk Traffic, owned by Chris Fountoukis, dwelt at the start of his first race on December 14 before winning each of his next two starts, breaking his maiden by 4 ½ lengths on December 28. The Cross Traffic colt handled the step up to stakes company, winning the seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield on February 8 on a fast Aqueduct track.
Jose Lezcano will have the call again, drawing post 8, as Montauk Traffic makes his first start at a mile.
"We like to think that the added distance will only help him," Rice said. "I was a little concerned around the turn [of the Jimmy Winkfield]. Jose opted to quit chasing faster fractions and just let the horse settle. Around the turn it looked like he was getting some kickback and trying to work his way through that as well. He made a nice move at the end of it, and we believe that the further the better for him."
Calumet Farm's First Deputy will make his first stakes appearance in his eighth start following consecutive wins at six furlongs. The $200,000 purchase at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Mid-Atlantic Sale will have Dylan Davis aboard from post 11.
"It's a big step up in company. We're giving him a shot, he's training well," Rice said. "Being an Awesome Again colt, the distance should be within his wheelhouse."
Untitled, owned by Gary Barber and Michael Sebastian, broke a string of poor breaks last out, running second in an optional claimer on February 14 at Tampa Bay Downs. Mark Casse took over the training duties after the son of Khozan won his first start in December. After being knocked around out of the gate in the Grade 3 Swale in which he finished fourth, Casse saw a cleaner break last month in Tampa in which he led the five-horse field through the quarter-mile and half-mile marks before running second to Gouverneur Morris.
Making his first start outside of the Sunshine State, Casse said the Florida bred has looked good training at Palm Meadows.
"He's been training really well," Casse said. "He's a beautiful horse. He's a big, long, good-moving horse. The problem he has sometimes is he breaks a bit slow. After we bought him, we breezed him from the gate trying to get him to be a little quicker right from there. I always wanted to run him long, and I figure the longer I run him, the less important the start is. But he broke pretty good last time."
Junior Alvarado will pick up the mount from post 10.
Two other contenders enter with Derby prep points to their credit, including Imperial Racing's Celtic Striker, who earned one point thanks to a fourth-place Jerome finish on New Year's Day at Aqueduct for trainer Raymond Handal. Romero Ramsay Maragh will ride from post 1.
Informative, owned and trained by Uriah St. Lewis, also earned a qualifying point for finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Remsen for juveniles on December 2. The Bodemeister colt won his only start in his 3-year-old campaign, breaking his maiden at eighth asking on February 8, and will now make a big step up in class.
John Bisono will have the mount for the seventh straight time aboard Informative, breaking from post 2.
Rounding out the field is Necker Island, fifth in the Swale in his only stakes appearance for trainer Stanley Hough [post 5, Manny Franco]; War Stopper, a first-time stakes starter, for conditioner Rudy Rodriguez [post 3, Jorge Vargas, Jr.]; Attachment Rate, making his stakes bow after a maiden-breaking win on an off track February 15 at Gulfstream for trainer Dale Romans [post 4, Luis Saez]; and Flap Jack, winner of the Arlington-Washington Futurity in September, making his first start in six months for trainer Jack Sisterson [post 9, Declan Carroll].
Rudy Rodriguez, who sits second in the Aqueduct winter meet trainer standings with 25 wins, will saddle maiden winner War Stopper in Saturday's Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham which offers 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
Salerno Stables' War Stopper, a chestnut son of Declaration of War, graduated at fourth asking by four lengths in a one-turn mile on January 11 at Aqueduct. A $75,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale graduate, War Stopper was off-the-board in his first two starts, both on turf, before a promising effort under Joel Rosario on dirt when fifth in a Big A maiden tilt on December 7.
"We tried him a couple times on the grass and we were disappointed with how he ran," said Rodriguez. "When we ran him on dirt the first time, he broke a step slow and had a lot of kickback. Rosario came back and said the dirt was hitting him in the face and he was uncomfortable. So, he moved him out wide and he started running and finished good. He was eight or nine wide, but he finished fifth. It was a good race. It didn't look good on paper, but to me, it looked good."
Last out, with blinkers on for the first time, War Stopper broke alertly under Jorge Vargas, Jr. and made all the running in a sharp effort that garnered a 93 Beyer Speed Figure.
"He broke good with the blinkers and that made the difference," said Rodriguez. "Hopefully, he can improve a little bit. He'll have to improve with 12 or 13 horses in the race. He's coming into the race good, so we'll keep our fingers crossed."
War Stopper worked a half-mile in 49.96 seconds on February 25 on the Belmont Park dirt training track.
"It was nice and smooth. It was just a maintenance breeze," said Rodriguez. "He went a half-mile and galloped out three-eighths. He did it the right way, nice and comfortable. I may breeze him again on Wednesday but we'll see how it goes. He's done all the heavy duty work."
Rodriguez, who saddled 2013 Gotham winner Vyjack, said Vargas, Jr. will retain the mount on the Kentucky-bred War Stopper.
"He's riding well and is aggressive. He listens and he really likes this horse," said Rodriguez.
Trainer Ray Handal has a sharp horse in Celtic Striker for Saturday's Grade 3 Gotham.
Owned by Imperial Racing, the sophomore son of Congrats will return to a one-turn mile after shipping to Parx Racing to beat winners in a mile-and-70-yard first level allowance following a fourth in the Jerome on New Year's Day, where he earned one point towards the Grade 1, $3 million Kentucky Derby.
In his last out two-turn debut, Celtic Striker broke alertly, set leisurely fractions on the front end and repelled a stretch challenge from heavy favorite Irish Cork to win by 1 ½ lengths.
"He was coming off a bit of a layoff in the Jerome. I thought I had him pretty sharp in there, but he came back pretty tired," Handal said. "He won the two turn race after which was by design. I wanted to go in a spot where I knew he could win so we went out of town for the allowance race. The plan was to come back to the Gotham for a cut back, making sure we put a tight, stiff one into him. Coming back in four weeks and on the cut back, he should be well sharp and ready to go."
Handal said if the field came up too tough, he could alter course and point for the Grade 3, $250,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks on March 14 at Turfway Park. As of now, all systems are go for the Gotham.
"Right now, the plan is to march forward, get to the Gotham and see what we have," Handal said. "He's a horse that's shown some talent in the morning in his workouts. I put blinkers on last race because I felt that he wasn't giving me everything he had. His numbers jumped up a ton in that allowance race. His first time wearing blinkers definitely changed his game so we'll see where we stand with him."
Purchased for $100,000 from the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale by Oracle Bloodstock, Handal said Celtic Striker displayed a strong physical demeanor, which made him very appealing.
"He was just such an athlete," he said. "We bought him at the [Keeneland] September Sale as a yearling and he had the perfect hind end. His whole conformation down that back leg was beautiful from the gaskin down to the hock. Everything was perfect. Physically, he's as good as you can get a horse to look."
With only four starts under his belt, Handal said it's still a bit unclear what the ideal distance for Celtic Striker could be.
"Looking at him, it looks like a one-turn mile is what he wants to do, but in his last race he just kept finding more," Handal said. "He kept on grinding and that was a legit field that day. The horse that ran second [Irish Cork] had just broke his maiden by 10 and ran second to [Grade 3 Withers winner] Max Player in the previous race. He doesn't show signs of fatigue from that race, he came back like it was nothing."
Bred in Kentucky by Stoneview Farm Inc. & Craig D. Upham, Celtic Striker is out of the Star Dabbler broodmare Shylock's Daughter.
Fresh off his stakes victory with Adventist in the Bernardini on Saturday at the Big A, conditioner Uriah St. Lewis will look to return to the winner's circle in Saturday's Grade 3 Gotham with stakes-placed Informative.
A Bodemeister colt purchased for $25,000 by St. Lewis as a 2-year-old at the Fasig-Tipton Mid Atlantic Sale, Informative made his first five career starts at Parx before entering the James F. Lewis III at six furlongs on November 16 at Laurel Park as a maiden where he was only beaten by a nose.
Informative entered the Grade 2 Remsen on December 7 at Aqueduct following that effort and finished fourth, just five and a half lengths behind the victorious Shotski. Last out, he graduated at the one-mile Gotham distance on February 8 at the Big A, garnering a career-best 79 Beyer.
St. Lewis has three graded stakes wins on his resume having captured the Grade 3 Greenwood at Parx last October with Adventist, as well as the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and Grade 3 Excelsior on the NYRA circuit in 2018.
The veteran conditioner said he is hoping Informative, who posted a bullet half-mile work in 48.05 on Friday at Parx, can pull off the upset.
"He's done very well for us and is coming into next week in good shape," said St. Lewis. "We always had confidence in him. It took him awhile to get going. He's starting to put everything together and with the experience he's gotten in races, including his victory here at the track and distance, we're giving him a shot to show what he can do."
Following a disappointing fifth-place finish by Necker Island in the Grade 3 Swale at Gulfstream, conditioner Stanley Hough said he will point the Hard Spun colt to Saturday's Grade 3 Gotham.
Purchased for $250,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale for Sagamore Farm, Necker Island made his debut in August at Saratoga Race Course where he ran third at odds of 22-1. Breaking his maiden at even-odds next out on September 29 at Churchill Downs, he followed up with a one-mile allowance victory on November 30 at the Louisville, Kentucky oval.
Necker Island encountered traffic trouble in the Swale where he had to travel four-to-five wide in an event won by Gotham rival Mischevious Alex. Hough is hoping for a smoother trip on Saturday.
"He had a little bit a of a setback following his allowance win at Churchill and we kind of had to rush him a bit to run in the Swale," said Hough. "It also didn't help he had a rough trip in there. We were shuffled towards the back and couldn't make up any ground having to travel wide most of the way. We know he'll appreciate the one-turn mile and hopefully we'll get a better trip then last time."
Necker Island breezed five furlongs in 1:02.40 last Friday at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, and Hough said the chestnut exited the work in good order and will ship to New York on Wednesday.
"He'll ship up to New York from Florida on Wednesday and we expect to have Manny [Franco] aboard," said Hough. "He's a talented rider and having a good meet so hopefully everything works out."
Trainer John Servis will ship a trio of top contenders for the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes card on March 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack led by Kentucky Derby hopeful Mischevious Alex.
Mischevious Alex (Cash Is King and LC Racing) is undefeated in a pair of seven furlong stakes sprints since adding blinkers for a 9 3/4-length score in the Parx Juvenile on November 5 which was followed by a seven-length romp in his sophomore debut in the Grade 3 Swale on February 1 at Gulfstream Park.
A winner at first asking on June 25 at Parx, the Into Mischief bay just missed in his second start when second by a neck at Laurel ahead of a troubled third under Trevor McCarthy in his stakes debut in the Sapling at Monmouth Park on September 1.
"He should have won his second start, but he got himself in a bit of a jackpot and ended up checking pretty hard. He fell back and came running but it was definitely a winning race," said Servis. "In the Sapling, Trevor thought he moved a little too soon with him. He got to the lead and then pulled himself up and got caught late."
Next out, Mischevious Alex finished off-the-board in his turf debut in the Laurel Futurity on September 21. The talented bay exited his grass effort in good order and returned to action sporting blinkers for the first time in his Parx Juvenile romp which garnered an 87 Beyer Speed Figure.
"The grass try was just a lack of anywhere to run and we figured we'd try it and see if he liked it. Obviously, he didn't care for it," said Servis. "I breezed him again after that and he breezed good but he wasn't focused. So, I went ahead and put the blinkers on him and he's been great ever since."
After recording a lifetime best 93 Beyer for his Swale score, Servis said Mischevious Alex will continue to race in blinkers.
"If it's not broke, don't fix it. As good as he's running with the blinkers on, I'm not going to take them off," said Servis.
Mischevious Alex will look to pick up his first Kentucky Derby qualifying points in the Gotham which offers 50-20-10-5 to the top-four finishers. Servis said his well-traveled bay, who has posted a record of 3-1-1 from six starts at four different tracks, should have no issues with the Big A's one-turn mile.
"Other than turf, he seems to run on anything. He should handle the one-turn no problem and hopefully we can try him two turns after that," said Servis. "If he runs in the Gotham like he ran in his last two races, we'd try one of the Derby preps going two turns and see how he handles it."
Probable: Attachment Rate (Dale Romans); Celtic Striker (Ray Handal); First Deputy (Linda Rice); Flap Jack (Jack Sisterson); Informative (Uriah St. Lewis); Mischevious Alex (John Servis); Montauk Traffic (Rice); Necker Island (Stanley Hough); Sixto (Eric Guillot); Untitled (Mark Casse); War Stopper (Rudy Rodriguez)
Possible: Ournationonparade (Kathy Ritvo)
Winter meet leading trainer Linda Rice is enjoying a solid campaign with three stakes wins at the Big A, including a milestone triumph with Scilly Cay in the Rego Park providing her with a 2,000th career win.
The NYRA mainstay will attempt to build on that success with a plethora of contenders in upcoming Big A stakes events.
Rice established a presence on the Kentucky Derby trail when George E. Hall's Max Player racked up 10 points in taking the Grade 3 Withers on February 1 and she'll saddle two contestants for the Grade 3 Gotham with Montauk Traffic and First Deputy.
Max Player breezed five-eighths in 1:02.40 on Wednesday morning over the Belmont Park training track.
"I bumped up his breeze a few days just because the weather was very nice and we were going to get some rain and some wind and some cold days. He worked alone and went very nicely," Rice said.
Owned by Chris Fountoukis, Montauk Traffic was a 1 ½-length winner of the Jimmy Winkfield on February 8 following a maiden triumph on December 29 at the Big A.
The gray son of third-crop stallion Cross Traffic settled along the rail throughout the journey having to take back around the far turn as the field inched closer to the front, but was tipped out three wide and found a second gear when in the clear and powered home to victory, registering an 80 Beyer Speed Figure.
Montauk Traffic recently returned to the work tab over the Belmont Park training track when drilling five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Monday. He will see an extra eighth of a mile in distance in next Saturday's Gotham, which is run at a one-turn mile.
"Right now, he's a lightly raced horse. He's run two seven-furlong races at Aqueduct," Rice said. "I think that the added distance should be no problem at all. It should be very helpful. We're just gaining racing experience as we go along so it's a nice progression for him."
Bred in Kentucky by Mike G. Rutherford, Montauk Traffic is out of the three-time stakes winning Menifee broodmare Taittinger Rose.
The Gotham Stakes (G3) is a 1 mile race for 3-year-olds held in Queens, New York at Aqueduct Racetrack. The race in early March is part of the Championship Series on the Road to the Kentucky Derby with the top four finishers earning qualifying points (50-20-10-4) and the winner securing a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. The Gotham Stakes is also one of the prep races for the Wood Memorial.
In 2017, the purse was reduced from $400,000 to $300,000. The Gotham had been contested at 1 1/16 miles since 2006, and reverted back to a 1 mile race in 2018 after previously run at 1 mile for nearly 40 years.
Initially inaugurated at the Jamaica Racetrack located in Queens in 1953, the Gotham Stakes was eventually moved to Aqueduct Racetrack in 1960. It has remained there to this day and has become one of the marquee races
The original and current distance of the Gotham Stakes is 1 1/16th miles. However, when the race moved to Aqueduct in 1960, organizers reset the distance to 1 mile. The distance of the Gotham Stakes has been run at 1 mile during four different eras from 1960-1976, in 1978, 1980-2002 and 2004-2005. It has also been run at 1 mile 70 yards in 1984 and 2003. Outside of those years the contest has covered a distance of 1 1/16th miles.
|Race Tracks||Time (EST)|